Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Review: Mistakes We've Made

Mistakes we’ve made during our three years here and what we’ve learned from them:

1)  Leaving a gate open. The result: Sara got loose. We herded her into a pasture, but we weren’t able to get close to her again until time for her calf to be born. We had to trick her into the trailer and haul her up to the round pen before she calved. Now we double-check gates!

2)  Waiting so long to build the barnyard. We didn’t actually realize we needed one until the rodeo with Sara and the impending birth of her calf, which we knew we needed to separate from Sara to be able to touch it. It is one of the best improvements we’ve made! What we did right was: make it as big as possible, leave a wide right of way for the drive in front, plan it so it links with the pasture gates across the drive to channel animals through, fence it in the best no-climb horse fence, and connect a round pen to it by a small gate.

3)  Not getting a posthole digger when we bought the tractor. When we were ready to build the barnyard, we tried renting a one-man gas-driven one, but it hardly dented our hard, clay soil. So Herb hand-dug every single one of the 21 postholes, 3 feet deep, no less! We learned we needed a PTO-driven one for our tractor. By the time we finally got one, it was summer and the ground was so hard we were advised to wait because even a PTO-driven posthole digger can’t dig through soil that’s like concrete. Winter was too wet, and the tractor would have slipped on our hilly terrain. Herb had to wait till spring rains, followed by enough sun to dry the ground surface before he could fence the home pasture. It was a herculean task, even with the digger, but he did an amazing job. A professional fencer who came to do some work for us admired Herb’s fence!

4)  Thinking our barnyard was secure just because we had a coyote-proof fence. We under-estimated the cunning of a fox to either climb the fence or creep through a tiny space between barn boards. This cost us nine of our birds in a few days. What we learned is that we need a livestock guardian, and that is how Misty joined us.

5)  Driving the tractor into the barn without fully raising the sliding door. Oops! The roll bar on the tractor sticks up WAY above your head—unfortunately, behind you, so you forget about it! At least the door was easily repaired, and now we haul it all the way up. Okay, now that I told one on Herb, I’ll tell one on me . . . Insisting on putting the tomato plants as close together as the “square foot garden” enthusiasts say you can. You can’t! Not in our area! Herb told me they’d get blight, and they did. Next time I’ll listen to him.

6)  Paying the man who dug our new pond before he finished the work. (You’d think at our age, we’d know better.) He laid it on thick about how he’d already done even more than we had asked him to do, which had kept him there longer than he planned, and some rain had made it impossible for him to get his equipment into the old section to dig it out and compact it per agreement, but he would be back to finish it as soon as he did this job that was waiting . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. You can guess how that story ends: We still don’t have a pond that holds water, and Mr. T doesn’t answer my calls any more.

7)  Letting the ducks go a week or so longer before we butchered them. They had already shed were re-growing down—leaving lots of teeny-tiny bits of down that were impossible to pluck out. It took us as long to butcher three ducks as it did to do 10 chickens. But we learned—we stopped at three instead of the five we’d planned to do!

8)  Not realizing that old houses can harbor dangerous stashes of rat poison that can kill an animal many years later. Poor Zephyr nearly died after she ate some rat poison that she found in an access hole in Kara’s house. By God’s grace, she was spared, and we plan to keep Zephyr Hill rat poison free!

9)  Not realizing there are still horse thieves around. After Angel and Brandy were stolen and recovered by God’s grace, we instituted several defense measures: Gates on all entrance drives and a security camera aimed at the barn. After Brandy was stolen a second time (from the barnyard on a moonless night) and recovered by God’s grace, we installed motion-detector lights in the barnyard and got BIG DOGS. They have probably been the best deterrent from future thefts.

10)  Waiting so long to do this! Why did we wait until we were in our 50’s to discover how much we love farm life? I think it was just not where God was leading us earlier in our lives (rather harder to do in Africa or in France), but we are so thankful that He has brought us down this rural road in the autumn of our lives!


  1. That was an excellent post. Thanks for sharing the pain. I love seeing all the family in that last photo.

  2. Thanks, Brent. I've learned so much from others sharing their mistakes, I thought I should do my part. The last photo shows exactly why we're doing this! That day was probably the highlight of my year--after being present to hold my one minute old grandson!

  3. I can so totally identify with this post. We just got started and every day is a new lesson for us. I'd love to come see yall sometime (like we have spare time HA!), we are in the process of purchasing Sara's daughter, Keira. We'll be in touch!

  4. So glad to meet you! Thanks for stopping by. We'd love to meet in person, especially since our cows are related! :)


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